Chafee v. Laffey: Yorke Interviews GOP Nat’l Senate Committee Spokesman Nick
Following is a rough summary of Dan Yorke’s interview with Republican National Senatorial Committee spokesperson Brian Nick.
First, Dan Yorke found it provocative that Elizabeth Dole personally tried to talk Steve Laffey out of running against Sen. Chafee. Nick explained that Dole told Laffey that the mission of the Senatorial Commitee is to protect incumbents. By that rationale, they will support Sen. Chafee. Above that, their data shows that the best way to keep a Senate seat and to keep the Senate in GOP hands is to keep Chafee, the incumbent, on the ballot. As such, worrying about a primary is not conducive to the priority they have put on re-electing Sen. Chafee.
Yorke then asked about why Laffey is regarded as a liability. To this, Nick answered that, first, since an incumbent is elected 85% of the time, incumbency is a lot more of a guarantee then having a wide open election. Second, as far as the issues break down, from their understanding of talking to both Chafee and folks in Rhode Island, Sen. Chafee fits the mainstream of where most Rhode Islander’s are on the issues. Finally, putting someone on the ticket who is untested, has no understanding of Washington, D.C., no relationship with the Senate or the President and is simply not ready does not appeal to them.
Yorke asked if they had done any research on Laffey. Nick stated that Laffey was initially tough to read: he’s raised taxes, but word of mouth had it that he’s a conservative. Then there is a T.V. add that sounds like a John Kerry or Hillary Clinton demonizing the Republican’s energy policy. To them, it seems like Laffey’s people are focus grouping to find his niche.
Yorke joked that they should have figured out that the worst thing to do was to have Elizabeth Dole try to cajole the contrarian-by-nature Laffey into not running. That was the wrong M.O.
To this, Nick said that, though they knew that going in, they thought it possible he could be persuaded. He then offered that they had thought he could be persuaded to run for some of the other open RI political offices (Lt. Gov, State Treasure). Then, in an unsolicited aside, he stated that Chafee will have to beat Laffey in the primary and it’ll be more expensive and more time consuming, but there’ll be a certain amount of enjoyment in ending his [Laffey’s] career before it started.
Picking up on this, Yorke asked why the animosity, to which Nick stated that they felt that Laffey didn’t respect the privacy of the meeting with Dole and that, in general, he has handled things without a lot of respect.
Yorke replied that it seemed to him that this isn’t just one of those go-through-the-motions-to-support-an-incumbent deal, but that this guy [Laffey] “has pissed you off.” Nick responded that, “I can tell you this, has he been helpful to the overall agenda? No.”
Yorke commented that they were getting a flavor of Laffey and that because he squeeled and violated protocol, they were going after him. Nick responded that, while Laffey does like to lecture people, we don’t want to curse him and we will make sure Chafee is re-elected.
Yorke then asked about the Laffey “tax machine” add campaign and Nick explained how it came about. He added that, from his understanding, Laffey prides himself as being a fiscal conservative, but he [Nick] was pretty sure that, if you personally have raised taxes, you can’t have anti-tax rhetoric and be persuasive.
Yorke responded that that may be true, but Cranston was in pretty dire straits. To this, Nick responded that, while that may be true, it is his contention that Laffey didn’t need to raise taxes to the extent he did.
Yorke asked about Laffey’s latest add concerning the price of oil. Nick then brought out what he obviously felt was a hammer. According to Nick, while Laffey says he’s going to take on and stand up to the special interests, Laffey himself profited from oil and gas interests while he was in Memphis, TN. And now he promises to take them on.
Finally, Yorke asked if they were really “holding your nose a bit with Chafee” who has been a thorn in the side of the Bush Administration? Nick responded that, while it was an important point, we don’t work for the Administration, we want what’s best for the Senate majority. Sometimes those things aren’t the same. Accordingly, Chafee as an independent Senator is admirable and politically smart and he’s a valuable member of the caucus. Yorke mentioned Chafee’s vote for Bush, Sr. in the last election and Nick responded that he’s [Chafee] willing to speak his mind and take a stand and to speak for the people of Rhode Island.
There you have it. In essence, to the GOP Senatorial Committee, it’s about keeping incumbents in office and maximizing the chance of maintaining a majority. If that means sacrificing ideology, so be it. Of course, it’s not as if Mayor Laffey can be considered a “mainstream” conservative himself, given his recent ad campaign rhetoric! In short, it appears as if we RI conservatives should say “how-de-do” to Mr. Rock and Mr. Hardplace when it comes to the coming RIGOP primary.
*note: Minor text edits and cleaning up done @ 7:40 PM. MAC
UPDATE:This story in the Warwick Beacon has more on the links between Mayor Laffey and the oil industry, including the charges made by Nicks and the response from Laffey.